Historical syntax of the English articles in relation to the count/non-count distinction
This dissertation focuses on functional nodes within the structure of the English noun phrase. The count/non-count distinction affects multiple aspects of the syntax of noun phrases, but the syntactic basis for that distinction has not previously been defined. I propose that the syntactic difference between count and non-count nouns is that count nouns, and only count nouns, are lexically marked to project a required Number Phrase. I further argue that the leftmost node of a Noun Phrase must be identifiable and that a/an as the minimal marker of a Number Phrase serves to make identifiable the presence of Number Phrase in a Noun Phrase headed by a singular count noun when that Number Phrase is the leftmost node. Evidence corroborating this analysis is found in the history of the English noun phrase, in that the indefinite article arose concurrently with other changes in English which are evidence of the rise of a count/non-count distinction. I argue that the count/non-count distinction was not encoded in the syntax of Old English but arose in the transition to Middle English. Similarly, the definite article is the minimal marker of the presence of a definite Determiner Phrase as the leftmost node of a noun phrase. Its rise in the transition from Old to Middle English is the surface manifestation of an underlying change in the defining feature of the Determiner Phrase from deictic to definite.
- Linguistics